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Mexico - Art: Flags on works at the "Franz Meyer" Musseum, Mexico City

Last modified: 2002-12-07 by juan manuel gabino villascán
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Mexica flags according a XVII-cent painting at the "Franz Meyer" Musseum, Mexico City

Reported by:
Santiago Dotor,
January 17, 2000

Last Saturday I went to see an exhibition in Madrid's Museo de América titled "The Golden Age in the American Viceroyalties 1550-1700". One of the showpieces was a folding screen painted on both sides, titled "View of Mexico city and of the Conquest of Mexico", anonimous, 17th century, from the Franz Mayer Museum (Mexico DF). One of the sides showed the conquest of Tenochtitlan (nowadays Mexico DF) in 1519. Many flags are shown in it, most of them in great detail. The Spaniards are shown carrying chequered flags (3x3 and 4x4) in white, blue and yellow, with a red Burgundy cross overall, and also two red flags with the Arms of Castile and Leon centered. Surprisingly, the troops of Moctezuma are also shown bearing flags, and they are so detailed and have so common features that I wonder whether they are spureous or actually have certain historical basis.


[Supposedly Aztec flag (1) according a XVII cent.
				painting] 1:1
by Santiago Dotor, January 17, 2000

One of the flags appears twice, being carried by the troops themselves, what we might call a Colour. It is a horizontal tricolour of yellow, red and white. It looks like 3:2 (hoist:fly), but both samples appear somewhat furled around the mast -as if to be easily carried by a standard bearer in strong wind- so the flag could really be 1:1.


[Supposedly Aztec flag (2) according a XVII cent.
				painting] 1:1
by Santiago Dotor, January 17, 2000

The second flag is also carried by the troops, and is a square vertical bicolour of red and yellow, with a large "coat of arms" consisting of a double-headed eagle, holding some kind of sceptre (maybe a branch, as it has a "raguly" appearence IYSWIM) in its dexter talon and a oval shield in its sinister, and with a large crown between both heads, of the sort that is called "ancient" in heraldry. The "arms" are depicted all in gold. I have used as scratch GIFart an eagle which appeared in a flag sent by (ISTR) Jarig Bakker on 9th December 1999.

Reported by:
Santiago Dotor,
January 17, 2000

[Supposedly Aztec flag (3) according a XVII cent.
				painting] 2:3 or 3:5
by Santiago Dotor, January 17, 2000

Close by Moctezuma's hand-carried throne is a white flag (the Royal Standard?) with three horizontal stripes, a central red one and two thinner green ones, one on each side of the red one (ie. something like horizontally W6:G1:W3:R3:W3:G1:W6). Overall is the same "coat of arms", this time not centered but offset to the top. This flag is shown as 2:3 or 3:5.


[Supposedly Aztec flag (4) according a XVII cent.
				painting] 1:2
by Santiago Dotor, January 17, 2000

Finally, another standard is displayed close to Moctezuma when he is about to be killed (which actually happened in 1521), and this is a 1:2 white flag with three horizontal stripes of red, yellow and blue occupying the bottom half, and the "arms" in the canton.

Reported by:
Santiago Dotor,
January 17, 2000

Historicity of the flags in the XVII-cent. painting at the "Franz Meyer" Musseum, Mexico City

I think these flags are a misinterpretation by a Spanish artist of the famous description of the Aztec Standards brought back to Spain by the Conqueror (Cortes) in which he describes tall poles displaying Eagle and other feathers in many colors. Each Aztec Chieftan apparently had his own color combinations. Montezuma's was supposedly predominately blue and white.

National Geographic published drawings of some of these feathered standards in both the 1917 and 1934 issues plus a banner of the Incas.

Dave Martucci, January 17, 2000